Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter

The next rover for Mars, Perseverance, is scheduled to launch on July 20. Riding along with it is a bit of new technology: a tiny helicopter that is supposed to be the first machine to fly in Mars' thin atmosphere. This is a proof of technology mission, not really about exploration, and the mission description just says "one or more flights within 30 days." I find myself wondering why the NASA's press pages make so little of the name; I had to search all the way to the "Mission Fact Sheet" to find that it even has a name. I suppose NASA is trying to keep expectations low, afraid that if they talk too much about it by name people will be disappointed if it only makes one 10-second flight, or never gets off the ground at all.

Ingenuity weighs 1.8 kg (4 pounds) and its rotors span 1.2 m (almost 4 feet). The blades are supposed to spin at 2400 rpm. It does have cameras, so it may get us some nice photographs of the rover in the Martian landscape.

Landing for Perseverance is scheduled for February 18, 2021. Maybe they will fly the copter to celebrate my birthday on the 26th.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

I find the choice of coaxial rotors interesting. I assume the intent is to minimize space / volume, but the tradeoff with all coaxial rotors is increased mechanical complexity. I guess they deem the increased number of potential points of failure acceptable, but I imagine an intermeshing rotor system would be a far more reliable alternative, with potentially more desirable flight characteristics. Maybe the space / volume issue is just that much higher of a priority, I suppose...